Moore, McClellin get special teams look
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Bears went to great lengths to replenish their special teams during the offseason after losing Pro Bowler Corey Graham to the Baltimore Ravens in free agency. But special teams coordinator Dave Toub is still searching for a replacement to Graham at right gunner on the punt team. With Eric Weems set to replace Zack Bowman at left gunner on punt, Toub is auditioning a handful of players this summer to fill the role Graham manned for the past several seasons.
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhD.J. Moore may get his chance as a gunner on the Bears' kick coverage units.
"We're looking at D.J. Moore," Toub said. "He's one of the quickest players we have so we're thinking he's going to get to the edge real quick and put the corner behind him so he has to chase. Devin Thomas is another guy [we're looking at] and both rookie corners (Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey) are going to get shots in there as well.'
"If you don't have a big guy they better be quick and able to hit the edge like D.J. or have a guy like Devin who can be a little more physical at the line on releases. At the end of the day, it all comes down to effort as a gunner. That's one thing about Corey [Graham], if you watched Corey he didn't have the greatest quickness or the greatest speed, but his effort was second to none. That's what made him so good. We're trying to find the next Corey Graham."
Moore has never before been thought of as a candidate to see much action on special teams, outside of the return game, where the 5-foot-9 defensive back returned 55 kickoffs for 1,256 yards over a three-year career at Vanderbilt.
"We really haven't used him a lot on special teams," Toub said of Moore. "He's been such a specialist on defense playing nickel ... this is the first year we're going to hope to depend on him. We'll see what happens."
The opening two practices of training camp also marked the first time 2012 top draft choice Shea McClellin lined up on special teams. Bears general manager Phil Emery commented on draft night that McClellin graded out as a future impact player on special teams, even though he was selected in the first round for the purpose of one day being the Bears starting defensive end.
"We left him off [special teams] the whole offseason and let him spend time with Rod [Marinelli] trying to get that stuff down," Toub said. "Now we started working him in. I'm not sure if you noticed today but we had him back there on kickoff return so we're going to start working him in. If not in the [rotation at defensive end] early in the year we're going to use him on special teams ... kickoff return, punt return possibly... maybe have him rush the punt. He can certainly help us.'
"He's drafted to be our end but anything he can give us on special teams is a bonus."